Fair Trade - what's it all about?
When you see the word Fairtrade, it means that the product it refers to has met international Fairtrade standards which are set by the international certification body Fairtrade Labelling Organisations International (FLO). These standards are agreed through a process of research and consultation with key participants in the Fairtrade scheme, including producers themselves, traders, NGOs, academic institutions and labelling organisations such as the Fairtrade Foundation.
When a product is Fairtrade certified, it will carry the FAIRTRADE Mark
What does the symbol represent?
The eye-catching blue, green, white and black FAIRTRADE Mark was adopted by FLO International in 2002. The symbol is open to interpretation – some see a parrot, others a green leaf, some see the black swirl at the centre as a road leading to a brighter future. The most popular interpretation is to imagine the blue as sky, the green as grass, and the black dot and swirl at the centre as a person holding one arm aloft. That figure represents the people at the heart of the Fairtrade system – it could be a farmer holding up their product, a shopper reaching to purchase, or a campaigner fighting for greater justice in international trade. You can read much more about the FAIRTRADE Mark and the Fairtrade Foundation on their website.
What products are available with the FAIRTRADE Mark?
The first products that were certified Fairtrade were commodities such as bananas, oranges, apples, sugar, cocoa beans (and hence chocolate), rice, tea and coffee. There's also honey, jams & spreads, beer, wine, biscuits...the list is quite extensive! If you would like to see the full current list, please visit the Fairtrade Foundation's Retail Products Page.
As the years have gone by, more and more products are available as Fairtrade Certified. More recent additions have been;
- Cotton, used in all sorts of clothes
- Beauty products - such as soaps, oils, lip balms containing Fairtrade ingredients
- Mung Bean Sprouts
- Even gold!
In order for a product to achieve FAIRTRADE Mark Certification, someone has to pay for the certification to be done. This involves quite a bit of work in assessing the whole process chain, from raw ingredients; where they are grown, how they are grown, who they are grown by - working conditions and all sorts of related details. In order for the job to be done thoroughly (and there's no point doing it if it isn't), then there naturally has to be a cost.
And now Fair Trade... (Back to the top)
So why are other items classed as 'Fair Trade', or 'Fairly Traded'?
There are two main reasons why this is the case.
First and foremost - the cost involved in certification, as detailed above. For a lot of small producers, the cost of certification is just not an option. For instance, we stock a range of jams and preserves from Eswatini in Swaziland. These aren't Fairtrade items, however they are Fair Trade. The producer is just too small and there isn't the money available to even think about certification.
Secondly, most of our Fairly Traded items are crafts; sculptures, scarves made from recycled silk, musical instruments and many other items. It is much more difficult to quantify the supply chain for these items.
For instance - when a scarf is made out of recycled silk, was the original silk Fairly Traded? It's hard to tell. However - what we can say is that all processes in the manufacture of the finished scarf were subject to Fair Trade 'rules'. You can read more about these rules on our BAFTS page.
What Fair Trade means is much more about grass roots. Whereas the FAIRTRADE Mark is governed by rigid Certification (and guarantees payment of a Fairtrade Premium*), Fair Trade is down to trust and goodwill. The producers affirm that there is no child labour involved; that women are afforded equal rights; that the workers are paid a fair wage; that they have access to health facilities and schooling for their children.
The companies that Simply The Best buy from go out to visit their producers once a year (or more often) to ensure that conditions are as above. They pay 50% of an agreed fee with initial order, with the other 50% before or at delivery. The prices paid are at the very least the local minimum wage; in most cases they are higher, providing a way out of 'poverty traps' that can so often occur.
These companies also, in general, provide further support for their producers. This can be by helping them provide schooling and health benefits and getting involved with their local community; by helping fund environmental projects or by donating some of their profits to recognised charities, such as you will find out about on supplier pages such as Namaste or Lanka Kade.
In other words, Fair Trade is built on mutual trust and understanding and a genuine desire to help people help themselves.
*The Fairtrade Premium is a payment made over and above the selling price and farmers and workers can use it for local, social, economic or environmental projects according to their needs.